It’s the remarkable reliability of the birding that draws me back to Ile-Bizard time after time. The time of day or year doesn’t matter; there are always good birds to be seen, most with little effort.
Some occasions — such as the magical winter of 2004-05, when about 20 Great Gray Owls came south and stayed for several weeks — are exceptional, but most days at Ile-Bizard are good birding days, and many are simply outstanding. Once a Least Bittern perched on a boardwalk railing just three feet away long enough for me to unpack and focus my camera — minus five seconds!
The extensive marsh and reed beds are full of common and rare species, of which the Least Bitterns, Sora, Black Terns, and assorted sparrows and ducks are especially interesting. In the forested area, warblers are reliable in spring and fall, while raptors hunt overhead and several breed in the park. Peering through the trees, you should spot Wood Duck. Owls may also be found. On the lakeshore, look for ducks and gull species, and enjoy the extensive views across the river/lake to the provincial park at Oka, another place worth your attention.
The Ile-Bizard nature park is one of several maintained by the city of Montréal. All are excellent places to see birds, but this is, without a doubt, my favorite. You won’t be disappointed. — Richard Gregson
Richard Gregson is a biologist, a board member of Bird Protection Quebec, and a co-chair of its bird sanctuary committee. He also runs various birding-related websites and local wildlife-related information resources.
Parc-nature du Bois-de-l’Île-Bizard
2115 Chemin du Bord-du-Lac
Ile-Bizard, Quebec H9K 1C6
Mixed habitats. Marsh and reed beds, Laurentian forest (mixed maple stands, evergreen, birch, oaks), shoreline and beach.
Flat with occasional very gentle slopes. Six miles of good-surfaced trails with boardwalks over marshy areas, almost all wheelchair-accessible. Cross-country ski trails in winter.
Virginia Rail, Sora, Black Tern, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Green Heron, Least Bittern, raptors, Barred Owls. All the regional warblers especially during migration. Great Gray and Snowy Owls in winter. Many duck species in season and Wood Duck all summer.
When to go
All seasons, but spring and fall migration periods are especially worthwhile. On weekends go early in the day, when birds are about and joggers are not.
Visitor center north of parking lot with display area, restrooms, and snacks open 10-5 daily (10-7 from June 18 to August 28).
City park. Admission free. Parking $5/car. Lot closes at dusk, but trails remain open all night. A car ferry runs between Ile-Bizard and Laval-des-Rapides in spring and summer.
Be prepared to spend more time on the boardwalks than you might expect. A scope is useful. You won’t need boots.